Inheritance of Secrets: Sonya Bates on ‘What’s in a name?’

Today we welcome author Sonya Bates to discuss the importance of title selection and the journey that involved for her debut adult novel, historical fiction thriller Inheritance of Secrets.

Plus, thanks to HarperCollins Australia we have 2 paperback copies of Inheritance of Secrets to giveaway to readers with Australian/New Zealand mailing addresses. See entry form below.

Inheritance of Secrets Sonya Bates - Historical fiction thriller

Inheritance of Secrets: Sonya Bates on ‘What’s in a name?’

Whenever people hear that I’ve written a book, the first thing they ask is, ‘What’s it called?’ ‘Inheritance of Secrets,’ I say. ‘Oh, that sounds intriguing.’ And the conversation begins.

The name of a book has many jobs. It must encapsulate the essence of the novel, portray the mood, and give some indication of genre. It must grab attention, be easy to pronounce and memorable. Most of all, it must entice the potential reader to open the book. It’s a big ask, and tricky to get right. For me at least. Inheritance of Secrets has a lot going on; a murder mystery, a dual timeline, a migrant’s journey to Australia and an underlying story of enduring love. The title changed many times as the story evolved.

Inheritance of Secrets has a lot going on; a murder mystery, a dual timeline, a migrant’s journey to Australia and an underlying story of enduring love.

The first title for the novel was ‘Oranges and Orchids’. I’d thought it was going to be a purely historical, and this was a reference to the elderly Karl’s love of his garden – the orange trees he had out the back and a hothouse full of orchids he so tenderly cared for, neither of which he could ever have grown had he stayed in Germany. Interestingly, the file on my computer containing everything related to the book (research, drafts, character profiles, synopses, cut scenes and chapters and so on) is still called ‘Oranges and Orchids’.

When the novel turned into a mystery, I knew the name had to change as well. Very briefly it was called, ‘Blood in Oranges’. Not very inspired, but a nod to the murder, and the ensuing mystery.

Once I’d written more of the first draft, and had a sense of the evolving story, I knew I needed something that captured the dual nature of the novel, something that could relate to both Juliet’s and Karl’s stories, hint at the mystery but not give anything away. The result was ‘The Deeds that Haunt Us.’ It seemed to fit on a number of levels, and the title remained for most of the manuscript’s lifetime. At least until I started sending it out to beta readers. The feedback I got was that it was staid, cumbersome. And on reflection, I had to agree that it was failing on a couple of key points. It wasn’t appealing on an emotional level. It didn’t grab attention. I’ll admit, it was hard to change the name at that point. It had been ‘The Deeds’ for a number of years. But when several readers/critiquers give me the same advice, I don’t ignore it. I went back to the drawing board.

Secrets seemed to be the key, the overarching theme of both the historical and the contemporary stories. 

I started thinking about themes. Murder, war, migration, starting a new life, survival, beliefs and values, family, friendship, loyalty … and secrets. Secrets seemed to be the key, the overarching theme of both the historical and the contemporary stories. Karl’s secret, which he couldn’t escape from, a secret that imperilled not just him, but his wife and his granddaughters as well. It was what I’d been trying to get at with ‘The Deeds that Haunt Us.’ A great secret that put his whole family in danger. So that’s when it became ‘Inheritance of Secrets’, right? Wrong. It had another incarnation: ‘When Secrets Come to Light’, the title of the manuscript when it was shortlisted for the Banjo Prize in 2018. Better, but still not quite right.

So where, then, did’ Inheritance of Secrets’ come from? I won’t take credit for it. Once the book had been contracted and the editing process had begun, my publisher, Anna Valdinger and I brainstormed yet again for an appropriate title. It was she who first thought of ‘Inheritance of Secrets’. There were other suggestions, brought up and discarded for various reasons, and a few variations on the final title. But Inheritance of Secrets was the one that stuck, the one that seemed to capture the essence of the novel, grab a potential reader’s attention and entice them to open the book.


Inheritance of Secrets - Sonya Bates

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Inheritance of Secrets Synopsis

A brutal murder. A wartime promise. A quest for the truth. A gripping, page-turning mystery.

No matter how far you run, the past will always find you.

Juliet’s elderly grandparents are killed in their Adelaide home. Who would commit such a heinous crime – and why? The only clue is her grandfather Karl’s missing signet ring.

When Juliet’s estranged sister, Lily, returns in fear for her life, Juliet suspects something far more sinister than a simple break-in gone wrong. Before Juliet can get any answers, Lily vanishes once more.

Juliet only knew Karl Weiss as a loving grandfather, a German soldier who emigrated to Australia to build a new life. What was he hiding that could have led to his murder? While attempting to find out, Juliet uncovers some disturbing secrets from WWII that will put both her and her sister’s lives in danger …

Gripping. Tense. Mysterious. Inheritance of Secrets links the crimes of the present to the secrets of the past and asks how far would you go to keep a promise?

“A tense compelling read; think Jane Harper’s The Dry meets Heather Morris’s The Tattooist of Auschwitz … fast-paced story-telling with plenty of heart-stopping moments. If you want to lose yourself for several hours, this is a wonderful book to do it in.” — Nadia L King

(HarperCollins Australia, 2020)

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About the Author, Sonya Bates

Sonya Bates is a Canadian writer who has made South Australia her home since 1997. She studied linguistics at the University of Victoria before obtaining a masters degree in speech-language pathology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. Having worked with children with communication difficulties for over twenty-five years, she now enjoys sharing her knowledge with speech pathology students as a part-time clinical educator. When her two daughters were young, she started writing for children and has published several children’s books. Her debut adult novel, Inheritance of Secrets, was shortlisted as an unpublished manuscript in the inaugural Banjo Prize in 2018. Check out her website or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

Worldwide Giveaway

Thanks to Harper Collins Australia we have 2 paperback copies of Sonya Bates’ Inheritance of Secrets to giveaway to readers with Australian/New Zealand mailing addresses.

Entries close midnight 22 June 2020. Complete entry form below.

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The lucky winners will be randomly selected and announced on our Facebook Page.

SORRY, ENTRIES CLOSED – See winners announcement.